NASA Langley Research Center has developed a novel thermoelectric (TE) material utilizing micro-scale silver telluride grains covered with bismuth nanoparticles. These materials have unique advantages in directly converting any level of thermal energy into electrical power and solid-state cooling by a reverse mode. Although thermoelectric devices are regarded advantageously with their high reliability, their lack of moving parts, and their ability to scale to any sizes, the devices’ energy conversion efficiency remains generally poor.
This invention is for a TE material with high-performance energy conversion. The material is created by surrounding crystalline semiconductors with nanoparticles by contacting a bismuth telluride material with a silver salt under a substantially inert atmosphere and a temperature approximately near the silver salt decomposition temperature, and recovering a metallic bismuth decorated material comprising silver telluride crystal grains. The material's performance has been validated in the lab, and manufacturing should be straightforward.